Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Monday, September 06, 2021

very funny
Some see the recent theft of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and “Madonna” as a disaster. Others see it as a marketing opportunity, albiet slight.

From a Google AdSense ad I spied this morning:

Buy Edvard Munch Madonna
No need to steal! Buy “The Scream”, “Madonna” and more at Art.com.

I’m assuming Art.com is offering reproductive prints, not the originals. (If they are selling the originals, I think investigators in Norway might have a break in the case!)

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/06/2021 10:11am
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture
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Sunday, September 05, 2021

Just in time for the release of The Motorcycle Diaries, Argentine politicians are pushing to bring native son Che Guevara’s remains home from their current internment in Cuba.

The U.S. equivalent, I guess, would be Saint Kitts and Nevis requesting that native-born Alexander Hamilton be dug up out of Manhattan and shipped to the Caribbean.

I suppose most people just assume Che was Cuban. The upcoming movie will help dispel that. I would have thought that Evita (the movie and the musical) would have clued the popular culture in to his Argentine roots, but then again, I’m not sure how obvious it is that the Che in that story is the same Che of revolutionary fame.

I may never get another opportunity to tell my Che story/joke. I don’t remember the source, or how much of it is based in fact, but I like it:

Shortly after Castro’s troops marched into Havana, the revolutionary leaders gathered to organize the new government. Castro ran down the list of to-do items.

“Alright,” he said. “Next, we need someone to lead the ministry of finance. Is anyone here an economist?”

Che looked up, raised his hand and declared, “I am!”

The others looked at him in surprise, unaware that Che had this previously-unknown skill. Castro said, “Well, alright then, you’ve got the job.”

Later, after the meeting was over, Castro took Che aside and said to him, “Che, I had no idea you were an economist!”

“Economist?” Che replied. “But I’m not.”

Castro was stunned. “Then why did you say you were when I asked for one?”

“Oh,” said Che. “I thought you said, ‘Is anyone here a Communist‘.”

The truthful foundation to this yarn: Che was indeed Cuba’s finance minister, from the establishment of Castro’s regime until he left Cuba (for Bolivia) in 1965. Since his formal education was in medicine, it was indeed an odd position for him to take up; combined with his contempt for bureaucratic mechanics, Che’s contributions in guiding the Cuban state’s economy were limited and short-lived.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/05/2021 11:45pm
Category: Political, Pop Culture
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it's just a show
Did my ears deceive me? Did a high-class movie channel like FLIX just run a promo for schlock classic Attack of the Puppet People, and cite director Bert I. Gordon‘s record number of appearances on “Mystery Science Theater 3000″?

I have a feeling they were scraping the bottom of the barrel for something to say about Gordon, and this dubious distinction was the best they could find.

Still, it’s been dead and gone for five years now, but MST3k continues to crop up in unexpected places. It might even be due for a revival, with a new DVD collection just released. It features a couple of gems: The infamous Manos, the Hands of Fate, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Thinking about it, maybe a movie channel would be the ideal home for reruns of MST3K. Securing the rights for most of the movies they used would be a neat trick, and realistically, probably too cost-prohibitive to pull off. But I’d love to see the show inserted into the rotation of FLIX, Turner Classic Movies, or even American Movie Classics. AMC might be the best fit, actually, since they already run commercials. I never watch AMC because of that, but if they did snag MST3K, I’d tune in.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/05/2021 10:46pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture
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Thursday, September 02, 2021


I’m watching a piece of kung-fu kitsch called Master of the Flying Guillotine (actually, it has a couple of alternate English-language titles; I prefer The One Armed Boxer Vs. The Flying Guillotine, but I’ll abide by the TV program guide).

It’s totally awesome. More cheese than an extra-large supreme, with no purpose other than to string together all kinds of ludicrous fight scenes.

The movie is driven by an anti-hero, the blind monk who wields the fearsome title weapon. His opening-scene guitar riff is a nice piece of high-energy proto-punk that effectively sets the tone for a fun ride. His brutal villiany is equal parts sinister and comical; I especially like the scene where he beheads a couple of tournament fighters, then, as an afterthought, tosses a firebomb into a large wooden platform.

I’d describe the Flying Guillotine, but I can’t possibly improve upon Giant Robot’s insightful assessment:

Although not a character, the flying guillotine weapon made audiences feel unworthy. With every throw, it made a gun ricochet sound. It was red, with the outside looking like a Skilsaw blade and teeth on the inside, like an octopus’ snatch. This tool alone is historically significant enough to merit the title of the film. If it existed, it should be sitting in a fighting flick hall of fame.

How impressive is this weapon? It had a film career of its very own.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/02/2021 10:17pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture
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Monday, August 30, 2021

It’s 25 years into the future, unfortunately. This, despite the best efforts of NASA, Moller International and Boeing’s Phantom Works division.

At this point, it doesn’t matter. All that stuff — flying cars, Moon condos, teleportation — is part of our old future. It was supposed to be here when the year 2000 rolled around. That didn’t happen, so it would be anticlimactic now.

By the way: Is it even possible to mention the concept of flying cars without “The Jetsons” coming up?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/30/2004 10:15pm
Category: Pop Culture, Tech
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Saturday, August 28, 2021

make me a smurf sandwich
Gargamel: Medieval Goth-cum-Unabomber or latter-day third-rate metal band?

You decide. I’m gonna smurf the heck on outta here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/28/2004 05:53pm
Category: Pop Culture
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Thursday, August 26, 2021

shufflin' along
I believe I read somewhere that the majority of iPod owners regularly set their players on Shuffle. I know I do. Everyone likes variety.

When you’re dealing with thousands of music tracks, over a wide range of genres, you expect to go a long stretch between hearing the same song or artist. But that’s often not the case, prompting some to question the randomness of Shuffle and wonder if the iPod doesn’t “know” to play certain songs more than others.

I myself experienced this, and even after assuring myself that the probabilities checked out, still ditched every Police song off the little 5-gigger.

The obvious solution: Shuffle by genre, or artist, or some other tag. Slightly more ambitious would be creating enough playlists to cover your various musical moods. But that involves editing song tags, syncing up the iPod with your computer… Too much work.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/26/2004 10:37pm
Category: Pop Culture, iPod
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1. Denial: I cannot believe Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is dead.

2. Anger: Her signature book, “On Death and Dying”, costs 16 bucks on Amazon??

3. Bargaining: I guess I could get it cheaper in paperback.

4. Depression: Thinking about death really bums me out.

5. Acceptance: Well, we’ve all gotta go sometime.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/26/2004 03:00pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture
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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

icelandic cat
HELLO! The above picture is of Bjork, doing her best Catwoman impersonation. A damn good one, too. (Actually, the outfit is part of the imagery from her upcoming Medulla album.)

I haven’t been paying enough attention to her, I think.

As far as I’m concerned, this trumps her swan dress by a long shot. And her Oceania Olympics frock, too.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/25/2004 01:44am
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Pop Culture
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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Part Tamagotchi, part 1-900 number: It’s Artificial Life’s Virtual Girlfriend, on a 3G mobile phone near you.

I foresee a bunch of sticky phones resulting from this…

(Via The Moderate Voice)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 10:33pm
Category: Pop Culture, Tech
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Sharon Fink takes note of the flood of brand names within this year’s Billboard Top 20 tunes:

The song with the most brands mentioned is Twista’s Overnight Celebrity. The rapper squeezed in nine: fellow rapper Nelly’s Apple Bottom Jeans; clothing companies and designers BCBG, Bebe, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Roberto Cavalli; shoemaker Jimmy Choo; MTV; and Range Rover.

Fink reasons that the lack of public distaste for all this name-dropping is the lack of payment for most of these musical mentions. I question that: Two years ago, Island Def Jam was the first major label to declare itself open for business in the lyrical product-placement game, and I’m sure the rest of the industry followed, publicly or not. I’d bet that the majority of those brand names were, in fact, paid for.

Aside from that, even if it was generally known (or even suspected) that the lyrics were “bought”, most of the audience wouldn’t care. Song placement is probably an ideal form of ad immersion: Unlike other mediums, it’s almost harder to make brand names seem grafted onto musical rhymes. Also, the long history of the advertising jingle set a precedent; it’s not so unusual to consider ad pitches as purely musical pieces — and infectious ones, at that.

It’s not mentioned directly, but rap songs are the primary territory for all this ad insertion. There are a couple of reasons for this:

One, most rap songs are first-person narratives, so personalized that they better lend themselves to endorsement-type ad pitches. Two, rappers tend to not invest their songs with a sort of sanctity that would make in-lyric advertising a transgression; indeed, the rap world sees no shame in collecting supplemental cash and merchandise through rhyme-droppin’.

By contrast, I doubt there’s very much brand placement in other musical genres. In fact, it probably would be looked down upon. It’s a double standard — Britney Spears or U2 aren’t supposed to sell their precious songs (unless they’ve been clearly reworked as commercial jingles), but it’s acceptable for Jay-Z and Ludacris to do so.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 03:58pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Pop Culture
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I wondered how the recent theft of one of “The Scream” paintings would impact my local notable arthole, the Salvador Dali Museum.

The answer? Armed off-duty cops will be protecting Dali’s famous melting watches and optical-illusion mosaics.

I guess I’d better think twice the next time I try to snap a couple of cameraphone photos of “Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire”. The docents are snippy enough, and they’re not even armed.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 02:25pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture
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Sunday, August 22, 2021

scream blackula scream!
That should be the sound emanating from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture after Edvard Munch’s iconic painting “The Scream” was stolen today in broad daylight.

If you’re gonna steal a Munch painting, “The Scream” is the one to nab:

Munch made four versions of “The Scream”, an image that has fascinated experts and the general public for decades. Art historians and amateurs alike have pondered the meaning of the enigmatic, seemingly bleak image, which over the years has found fame in the popular culture in serious reproductions but also cartoons and novelty items.

Novelty items like the inflatable Scream figure doll, which I see almost every day in the art department of my magazine. Truly a sign of pop-cultural assimilation.

It seems the curators at the Munch Museum were trusting enough of the public to not install any sort of alarm system or other protections on the priceless artwork they’re displaying. Someone over there should be sprucing up their resume right now, because they’ll be on the streets soon.

I’m thinking that if the powers-that-be at the Salvador Dali Museum, here in Tampa Bay, don’t want a copycat crime, they’ll either install protective devices or doublecheck the ones they’ve got. Munch has only one painting that’s crossed into the pop culture landscape; Dali has a huge body of work that’s done so.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/22/2004 03:49pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture
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Saturday, August 21, 2021

A distinct sub-genre has emerged within the reality TV universe: Cosmetic surgery makeovers. “The Swan” started it, amid plenty of criticism. The concept has evolved from a contest-style show to a “purer” behind-the-scenes format — resulting in some curious brands.

To wit:

“Dr. 90210″ on E! started airing this summer. To counter, Bravo will soon debut “Miami Slice”.

From these titles, I’m inferring that we can look forward to episodes featuring Luke Perry and Don Johnson getting Botox tuneups and ass-lifts.

I don’t watch reality shows, but… Hell, I still wouldn’t watch this. Not even if they had an episode with Jennie Garth getting a boob job.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2004 07:20pm
Category: Pop Culture, RealiTV Check
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vap-o-glug
I drink, but don’t smoke. I’ve learned the subtle art of how to nurse a drink in social situations (verus the old chug-a-lug of my teenage and college years), if only just to pace myself and avoid looking like an alcoholic. But it’s an awkward procedure: The mere act of holding a glass while shifting from conversation to conversation feels unnatural.

In that sense, I’ve sort of envied smokers. Smoking itself isn’t particularly attractive to me, but the act of smoking is. It makes one look casually engaged while socializing, and unlike sipping from a glass, it appears more effortless.

What do to? Enter the Alcohol Without Liquid, or AWOL, vaporizer. Instead of taking up smoking, I now have the option of snorting my spirits.

Personally, I think a better name for this little doodad would be “Booze Hookah“.

The AWOL is causing a fuss in New York State and other places, where officials think it will encourage reckless drinking. I think that’s bogus, but patently false claims like this by the manufacturer probably don’t help:

Makers say it takes about 20 minutes to breathe in one shot, giving drinkers the effect of alcohol without the drunkenness, or hangover.

As one who’s injested a fair amount of liquor in his lifetime, I can attest: Drinking your hooch s-l-o-w-l-y doesn’t prevent you from getting trashed. At least not in the sort of situation where you’d expect to be using this device. I’d take the claims that these guys make with a good measure of salt. Their cheapy-looking website doesn’t inspire much confidence, either.

Still, the controversy will only help make the AWOL a hit, even if only for a fad-like spell. Putting one of these things on display at Trust in NYC was an odd touch, but again, will only pique everyone’s curiosity.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2004 03:15pm
Category: Pop Culture
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